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Ender's Game as theological metaphor

Posted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 11:50 pm
by gomaniac
I was recently rereading Ender's game, and another layer to the story occurred to me, brought on by someone's question about why OSC had Ender be a child. It occurred to me that it is not uncommon to refer to mankind as God's children, that and making him a child means he doesn't have as much power over his own life as an adult would have. He is a victim of his elders.

In this way, Ender (and the other children) are forced to comply with the will of entities they neither understand nor necessarily even agree with. It is stated more than once that the teachers are the enemy; if one takes this book as metaphor about our own lives, the teachers could represent God, and the children are people. Ender is, throughout the book, forced to comply with the teacher's plan, despite not knowing (or even being allowed to know) what he is actually doing. In the same way, it could be said that God forces us to comply with his plan without any intention of telling us what the end result will be. How is this fair?

Of course, God doesn't necessarily have to be the bearded man in the sky: perhaps its nature, perhaps our teachers are our own nature, our own will to survive forces us to act in ways which we'd rather not, in ways that hurt us and drive us to the very brink of sanity, and we don't even get to know the deeper meaning behind our actions. That is truly the action of a cruel God.

Posted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:08 am
by Janus%TheDoorman
I don't really see it. The whole point of Ender is that the adults and teachers can't do what he can do. Their whole plan is basically just to put Ender through the grinder, and if he survives, put him in control of the IF and hope for the best. Mazer is the only one that ever successfully manipulates or deceives Ender for his own ends, the rest of the time it's just the teachers doing all they can to stay one step behind Ender.

This might just be confirmation bias at work on my part, though - OSC is well known for being a devout Mormon. The emphasis on family as a central component of one's life, which I don't have a source handy for but I believe he's attributed to his religion in the past, shines through even in places where I feel it compromises the story. Imagining him intentionally portraying God as an inept babysitter who's being led around by his charges is a stretch.

Nevertheless, where many of the major characters have clearly defined characteristics and parts of the human condition they represent, the adults are left intentionally amorphous. John Paul and Theresa are given more structure in later stories, and Graff has just enough character to stand out from the other IF personnel, but as a whole the teaching staff is just part of the environment.

Ender's struggle isn't with the environment, though. Ender's struggle doesn't happen in the game room, or even at the simulator at command School. His struggle is with himself, with being a boy, an exceptional boy, but still a boy, called upon to become the man who will save the world. The struggle is about coming to grips with what's necessary to win a war, to lead men into battle, to truly know your enemy. This is why OSC doesn't go into detail of the tactics of the battles at the end when the superficial (to the story) struggle with the Buggers is going on. Indeed, the whole thing could have been a game and it would have made no difference to what Ender and his jeesh were dealing with.

Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:45 pm
by piers_styx
Ender's Game doesn't really have much theological significance to me. But the other books, especially Xenocide and Children of The Mind have huge theological arguments underlying them. And in these, Card's Mormonism shines through, if in a distorted sci-fi sort of way. His explanation of philotes is kinda like sci-fi Mormonism without directly showing God. Its not exactly LDS teaching, but its darn close. One of teh ironies of the serie sI think is that even though Ender "embraces" his father's Catholicism he really is more like his mother's Mormonism.